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Patrick Byrne

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Patrick ByrneOne learns about science in the classroom, but one learns to be a scientist in the laboratory. At Penn State I studied in the Chemistry Department while working in the Bryant laboratory in the BMB Department. In the Bryant Lab I conducted research on expression of non-native genes in cyanobacteria, a phylum of photosynthetic bacteria. Using yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) as a reporter, we found that changing the promoter region upstream of YFP led to different levels of protein expression depending on the environmental conditions1,2. In the future, such a system might be used to control or induce expression of proteins involved in practical processes, such as biofuel production.

After Penn State I enrolled in a graduate program in Biophysics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Our department at Hopkins stands at the interface of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. We use the principles of Physics and Chemistry and apply them to living things at the level of atoms and molecules. For example, one might want to know how a protein folds from a single chain of amino acids into a three dimensional molecular machine. You also might want to know how the shape of that protein determines its function, or how that function affects its role in the context of a living cell. These are but a few of the questions the biophysicist seeks to answer. A classic application is the study of sickle cell anemia, a protein-misfolding disease that arises from a single amino acid substitution.

The guidance I received in the Bryant Lab gave me freedom to pursue my own ideas, design my own experiments, and make my own conclusions. That sense of autonomy has stayed with me in graduate school; I am a stronger, more independent scientist because of my time at Penn State.

References:

  1. Xu Y., Alvey R.M., Byrne P.O., Graham J.E., Shen G. and Bryant D.A. (2011) Methods Mol. Biol. 684, 273-93.
  2. Byrne, P.O. (2010) Undergraduate Thesis. "Differential and inducible expression of yellow fluorescent protein in the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002". Pennsylvania State University Press. Available online at

 http://honors.libraries.psu.edu/theses/approved/WorldWideIndex/EHT-465/index.html